Bennett's style has been likened to that of Gael Clichy and Ashley Cole since bursting on to the scene, albeit with a few years experience and appearances on the Premier League stage to make up.

On Wednesday night, the 20-year-old tuned in with the majority of football lovers to watch Arsenal defeat Barcelona in the Champions League and there was a display from Brazilian right-back Daniel Alves that he paid particular attention to.

Alves might not have been at his best, but he still illustrated the sort of drive down the flank to join the attacks which Bennett is keen to pride himself on.

"I watched Dani Alves and that is something you have to aim for, to play like him, he's good to watch and I think he does more attacking than defending," said Bennett. "The modern day full-back is all about getting up and supporting.

"That is how I have been taught growing up. I will keep on doing that. Obviously I have to keep on working on my defending, I have said that many times but I do like to get forward even though I have to get back too. I will keep on doing that, supporting, crossing and trying to get a goal as well."

As a teenager, as well as football, he was introduced to netball because his mum was a coach, while he plays badminton, golf and tennis when he is not on his Xbox.

But it has been Bennett's displays in the Championship this season under Tony Mowbray that have earned him England Under-21s recognition.

There have been a number of Premier League clubs at Boro's matches to run the rule over his progress. Newcastle, represented by Peter Beardsley in the defeat to Swansea last week, have been one of those to have been at the Riverside Stadium.

Middlesbrough wisely moved to tie him down to a long term deal last month, meaning they are in a strong position to fend off any interest in the player unless an offer arrives which is too good to turn down.

Mowbray has been satisfied and encouraged by the Academy graduate's progress. He said: "Joe Bennett has been a huge positive. Let's see what level we get to, at the moment we're in the bottom half of the Championship, but in my opinion Joe is going to be a top Premier League player. He is a huge attribute and huge asset for our football club.

"Talented players generally hit you in the face. Joe wasn't in this team, apparently he was on his way out. Thank God he didn't leave though because he is a huge asset for the club and a huge talent."

With Bennett now established as a key member of Mowbray's team, both presently and long term, it is an incredible turnaround from the days of when Gordon Strachan was in charge.

Strachan had not been impressed by the left-footer's attitude and would have let the player go had a suitable offer arrived for him from elsewhere.

"Every manager sees players differently. For me, Joe's talent with the ball and his personality is a massive asset," said Mowbray. "He's quite a fiery boy at times. My motivation tactic for Joe is generally to tell him how good the right-winger is.

"He takes it upon himself to show me that he isn't good enough. That's an interesting personality trait. He doesn't like me to tell him that the opposition right-winger is the best player on the pitch. He takes it personally and makes sure he doesn't get a kick, although you have to have the talent to be able to do that of course.

"What did I know about Joe? Not a lot to be fair. I'd seen his name on Middlesbrough team sheets in the past and when I had scouts from other clubs looking at Middlesbrough reserves, I had some pretty favourable reports on a young player who was doing pretty well and looked like he might be a talent."

Bennett has clearly been enjoying himself since Mowbray's arrival, even if he is having to shake off a dead leg problem to take his place at Millwall this afternoon.

"I enjoy working with him," said Bennett. "He put me in straightaway. He believes in me and knows what I can do so hopefully he will keep me in there and I can keep that spot.

"It was good to sign a four and a half year deal, it gave me a bit of security. I was delighted to sign. There's more to come from me, I want to improve but obviously, the gaffer has been really good with me, he has stuck with me and hopefully I can stay there."